Despite the comment of Bryan Smith of the Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority (PARTA), the community is not bound by its own appraisal. To the contrary, owners obtain separate appraisals because they believe the government’s appraisal is incorrect. To simply state, as Smith does, that PARTA’s appraisal alone is enough to take an owner to trial does not fulfill the government’s obligation to make a fair offer prior to initiating a condemnation proceeding. Even when the condemning agency feels it has made an adequate offer, it should at least look at the owner’s appraisal to ascertain whether the government’s appraisal is correct. To imply otherwise, as PARTA does, is unfair to owners.
PARTA and property owners Tony and Carolina Difiore have been unable to agree on a sale price.
The agency initially offered about $450,000 for the half-acre property and 10,000-square-foot building.
Bryan Smith, PARTA's director of planning, said the agency followed federal rules by hiring an appraiser, and then hiring an independent consultant to review the appraisal.
The Difiore's counter offer was $1.5 million, Smith said.
''We're bound to offer (the appraised amount). We're not allowed to pay $1.5 million,'' Smith said. ''We as taxpayers wouldn't want that.''
PARTA told the Difiores that if they can prove the property is worth $1.5 million, there was a process for amending the appraisal.
After PARTA filed an eminent domain action, the Difiores presented an appraisal valuing the property at $750,000, Smith said. The day before last week's trial, they submitted a revised appraisal for $1 million.
PARTA sought a continuance to review the information, and it was granted by Portage County Common Pleas Judge John Enlow.